Gregoire Owona defends Biya’s White House visit, says it was in Cameroon’s best interests

Par Gerald Ndikum | The Herald
Yaounde - 31-Mar-2003 - 08h30   45689                      
Gregoire Owona, minister delegate at the presidency incharge of relations with the assemblies, has taken to the defence of President Biya’s visit to the White House last week, saying it was in Cameroon’s best interests.
Owona was reacting in his capacity as assistant CPDM scribe to criticisms from both the opposition and civil society that the visit coming at the onset of the US-led war against Iraq was inopportune and betrayed a divorce with Cameroon’s colonial master France which is championing the pro-peace camp. In an article published in La Nouvelle Expression Owona questioned why Biya should be reproached for taking a decision in the best interests of Cameroon. “By the way, I don’t understand why a head of state should be reproached for being close to the interests of his people, in a context where, on thinking it over, every country seeks to preserve theirs”. The CPDM scribe said the White House visit generally considered to be quite successful offered an occasion for Cameroon to open up to new friends and improve its bilateral cooperation with America. “The visit of President Biya to the United States is rather one of the first windows opened to a world which is being recomposed, a new international order where friendship makes sense, but where the addition of friends will always count and even more. And in this new world which is being redesigned in our eyes, it is a question of not missing the post-war train”. Owona who was on the CPDM delegation to President Bill Clinton’s inauguration 1992 denied that Biya’s visit to the White House at the time the US was waging a unilateral war against Iraq amounted to a change of Cameroon’s pro-peace stance and an attempt to break relations with France. “It has never been a question of and I think it will never be of breaking relations with France or of weakening them, but can we know if the interest of Cameroon is to reinforce its relations with the USA?” Owona queried. The CPDM assistant scribe and spokes person of the CPDM conservatives clarified that Biya’s US visit was not an endorsement of war since the US president had long abandoned the diplomatic phase of the crisis. He challenged those who through ignorance made misplaced judgements of the US visit to do their mea culpa now that the fallouts of the visits have proved that Biya acted in the best interests of Cameroon. Applications for 27 audio-visual media organisations to operate in Cameroon have been scrutinized while those for 13 are still pending. In presenting new year’s wishes to communications minister Jacques Fame Ndongo at the Yaounde conference centre yesterday, the secretary general in the ministry Hamadou Paul praised his boss for a relentless fight to ameliorate the communication facilities and professionalism in Cameroon. The ceremony attended by journalists from the private and government media was also used to install officials recently given duty posts in the ministry. Fame Ndongo stressed that journalists should be credible, professional and avoid being manipulated. Fame Ndongo who has always accused audio-visual houses he banned of operating illegally and unprofessional practice, called on those who were lagging behind to join the train of professionalism. He also used the occasion to caution them against manipulators who were using them to achieve «extra-professional motives.» He said the government was not one of these manipulators. The 150 million grants to the private press by government was not to buy over their sympathy, but to “alleviate some of the private media’s poverty problems” he explained. During the same ceremony, the new inspector general of the ministry, Mbida Paul Albert and other recently appointed officials of the ministry were installed. These included the technical advisers, directors, chief of services etc. Fame Ndongo promised to adopt a strict performance monitory mechanism and urged the newly appointed officials to be more productive and accountable.
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